Are genotoxic carcinogens more potent than nongenotoxic carcinogens?

S. Parodi, D. Malacarne, P. Romano, M. Taningher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this report we have raised the question whether genotoxic carcinogens are more potent than nongenotoxic carcinogens when studied in long-term carcinogenicity assays in rodents. To build a large database of compounds for which both carcinogenicity and genotoxicity had been investigated, we have used a database produced by Gold and co-workers for carcinogenic potency data (975 chemicals) and a database produced by Wurgler for genotoxicity data (2834 chemicals). Considering compounds positive or negative in at least three short-term tests and in at least 75% of available tests, we could define 67 genotoxic carcinogens and 46 nongenotoxic carcinogens. Carcinogenic potency of genotoxic carcinogens was about 50 times higher than carcinogenic potency of nongenotoxic carcinogens. Our results are different from the results of Tennant et al.; their database (24 genotoxic carcinogens and 12 nongenotoxic carcinogens compatible with our definition) seems to suggest that there is practically no difference in potency between genotoxic and nongenotoxic carcinogens. The two databases have only four compounds in common and are also different in terms of number of elements for different chemical classes. Nitrosocompounds, nitrogen mustards, hydrazine derivatives, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are not represented in the database of Tennant. The overall impression from our analysis is that the usefulness of short-term tests of genotoxicity could be significantly better than what has been suggested by the previous work of Tennant et al. because these tests tend to detect, at least for many important chemical classes, the most potent carcinogens. This consideration may not be valid for certain classes of chemicals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-204
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Publication statusPublished - 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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